Pennsylvania’s Shield Law Protects Democracy, Ensures Freedom of the Press

  • Jan 22, 2015

CONTACTS:
Melissa Melewsky, PNA Media Law Counsel
Email: melissam@pa-news.org                                   
Phone: (717) 703-3048 

Paula Knudsen, PNA Dir. Govt. Affairs
Email: paulak@pa-news.org                                           
Phone: (717) 951-6314

 

HARRISBURG, Pa. (January 22, 2015) — The Thirty-Fifth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report # 2 was released publicly today. Among other things, the grand jury, seated in Montgomery County and supervised by Judge William R. Carpenter, calls for a narrowing of the Pennsylvania Shield Law to “maintain an acceptable balance of competing interests…” The Grand Jury’s report was forwarded to both the Pennsylvania Senate and Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Journalists in Pennsylvania are protected by what is often referred to as the “Pennsylvania Shield Law.” 42 Pa.C.S.A. §5942. This law provides journalists with an absolute privilege against the compelled disclosure of confidential sources of information, whether from law enforcement agencies or private citizens. Under the Shield Law, reporters cannot be required to produce the names or identities of confidential informants, including documents that would reveal them.

One of the traits that makes American society among the greatest in the world is its freedom of speech and of the press. The free flow of information has long been recognized as one of the hallmarks of a free society, and is essential to the proper functioning of a free press and to our democracy. Journalists' ability to keep sources of information confidential is critical to this free flow of information, and the proposed exception would have a chilling effect on the ability of journalists to investigate matters involving the criminal justice system and much more.

The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and its members strongly oppose any attempt to narrow the Pennsylvania Shield Law.

About the PNA:
The PNA, founded in 1925, is the nonprofit trade association for print and digital news media in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its mission is to advance the business interests of Pennsylvania news media companies and to promote a free and independent press. It has more than 300 newspaper and media members, including daily, weekly, and college newspapers and online publications. To learn more, visit http://panewsmedia.org/.

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